Justin Verlander set to make season debut Saturday
Detroit – The wait is just about over.
Justin Verlander is scheduled to make his first start of the year on Saturday against Cleveland.
"He threw a bullpen today and he feels fine," manager Brad Ausmus. "I am looking forward to him pitching well. There is still a little bit of a strength-building process, it is his first start. His pitch count is over 90 so there is not a lot of restriction. If he throws well, we will roll with him."
Verlander injured his right triceps in what would have been his second to last spring training start in March. The healing process has been much longer and arduous than Verlander or the team doctors thought it would be at the time.
But, after one simulated game and two rehab starts in Toledo, he has been cleared to return.
"We can't go crazy with him," Ausmus said. "He went 93 pitches (in his rehab start Saturday), so there is some room above that he could go. There is no hard cap, but he certainly couldn't go 115 pitches or anything like that."
Ausmus said David Price would pitch Friday, Verlander Saturday and Alfredo Simon on Sunday. He would not announce who would pitch after that.
Presumably, how Shane Greene performs against the Cubs Wednesday will play a role in that decision. If he struggles for a fourth straight start, the Tigers could take him out of the rotation temporarily and use left-hander Kyle Ryan.
In the meantime, Ausmus said Ryan is available out of the bullpen.
Catcher Alex Avila, on the disabled list with a left knee injury, has had his rehab process snagged.
He took batting practice with the team in Chicago Friday night and reported what Ausmus called "low grade" soreness the next day.
"We are in a holding pattern," Ausmus said.
Avila had an MRI Monday and the Tigers were waiting for Dr. Robert Anderson to review the results.
"It doesn't seem like anything alarming at this point," Ausmus said. "We're not sure if he aggravated it hitting or running the treadmill. We are waiting on the doctor's opinion. The decision is to continue forward or stall."
The Tigers still haven't made a decision regarding reliever Bruce Rondon (biceps tendonitis).
He was roughed up in his last rehab appearance Saturday. Rehab assignments can't last longer than 20 days and he is right up against that deadline.
"We want him to throw a bullpen here before we decide anything," Ausmus said.
Most likely, he will throw the bullpen before the game Wednesday.
Around the horn
Left-handed starter Kyle Lobstein, out with a shoulder injury, has had a setback, as well. He began light tossing last week, but felt soreness the next day. He will not throw again until he is symptom-free.
... For the record, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell was ready to throw out the first pitch Tuesday. He had taken some tune-up tosses in Allen Park and he was ready. But, he had to take a raincheck. This was new Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill's introduction day and Caldwell politely stepped aside and let Blashill have the pregame honor. Caldwell will throw out the first pitch on another day.